On 22 September, Ambassador Orita met Charles Clarke, Secretary of State for Education and Skills, to exchange views on the UK's education policy. A summary of their discussion follows:
1. Promotion of Japan-UK educational exchange
Mr Clarke spoke of the need to foster the links between schools in Japan and the UK. In this regard, he expressed interest in sending more British university students to Japan. In addition, Mr Clarke called for the participation of Japanese schools in the Global Gateway Project, which was initiated by the British government, as Japan is one of the countries on which Britain is focusing particular attention in the field of international educational exchange.
2. Promotion of Japanese studies in the UK
Ambassador Orita expressed his concern that, although there had been a remarkable increase in the number of pupils studying Japanese language at primary and secondary levels, there was declining participation in Japanese Studies in higher education. He voiced particular dismay regarding the closure of the East Asian Studies Department at Durham University
Mr Clarke offered his own views regarding trends in Japanese Studies, and stated that the British government was now investigating the feasibility of providing assistance for specific fields of study that were of strategic importance to the UK. It was important, he said, that further efforts be made by the relevant universities to recruit students for Japanese courses.
3.Japanese Language Education
Ambassador Orita spoke of the advantages of studying foreign languages, including Japanese, for the British people. He declared that, although English was one of the most widely spoken languages in the world, learning other foreign languages naturally contributed to understanding the cultures underlying them.
Mr Clarke agreed on the importance of having British schools offer Japanese courses and explained that the British government was planning to develop a qualification system for foreign languages, including Japanese, within the year 2005.
4. The JET Programme (Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme)
Ambassador Orita explained that every year the Government of Japan recruited approximately 500 young British graduates to work in Japan, and that therefore the JET Programme was the second largest employer of graduates in the UK after the Civil Service.
Mr Clarke appreciated the important role of the JET Programme in promoting foreign language education upon the participants' return to the UK.
5. Education on history
Ambassador Orita stated that there was little coverage of Japan in history courses in British schools.
Mr Clarke acknowledged that Asian history had not been widely introduced in British schools. He further stated that although it was not possible to dictate the curriculum or content of history education at primary and secondary levels, there was a case for raising public awareness of the need for a more internationally-focused history education.